What’s the status of Florida’s relationship with the multi-state test being designed to test new Common Core State Standards? It’s complicated.
The Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers was originally thought to replace most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test beginning in 2015. Florida is one of 20 states working on the test, paid for by a federal grant. Florida manages the money for the project.
But a couple of problems have put Florida’s continued participation in PARCC in doubt.
The first is the growing acceptance that Florida school districts won’t have the computers and Internet bandwidth needed to administer the online test by the original 2015 deadline. The other issue is that PARCC tests are longer — taking twice as much time in some cases — as the FCAT tests they are replacing.
In July, House and Senate leaders sent a letter to then-Education Commissioner Tony Bennett asking Florida to withdraw from PARCC. They asked Bennett to come up with a Plan B.
When Bennett resigned last month, many observers assumed that was the end of Florida’s participation in PARCC.
But it’s clear that the pro-PARCC forces are trying to keep the test an option during Gov. Rick Scott’s three-day education summit this week.
Tuesday afternoon the three dozen participants broke into groups to debate problems and solutions about state standardized testing. One group, which included Patricia Levesque, the influential director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, identified the legislative letter as an issue.
The letter gave the impression that PARCC wasn’t an option for Florida. The group asked House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz to clarify their opposition to the test.
Others pointed out that many of the complaints about PARCC are because the test will ask more complicated, open-ended questions. Do we want to measure critical thinking skills or not? St. Johns county school superintendent Joe Joyner asked.
Still, many summit participants are firmly against PARCC. A few said they favored using a Common Core-tied exam from a major testing company like ACT or SAT. Others said the state must allow a pencil and paper testing option.
Vince Verges, Florida’s PARCC project director, said the state could still participate in field-testing the exam with the cost paid with the federal grant.